At a time when terms such as money, commercialism and riches are synonymous with the beautiful game, there are sides like Swansea City, which go against the modern day monotony of the football world. When money is being spent heftily on players, Swansea seem to detach themselves from the surroundings and exist in an isolated environment of their own. How good a sight it is to witness Leon Britton dictate play from the midfield? Or the 33-year-old Angel Rangel maraud the right wing throughout the game? Its a rarity, especially at a time when money has well and truly applied its vice grip over the game. Although, its really refreshing to witness a Premier League side adhere to such an approach, but that is just when the plot thickens.
The Welsh club are currently debt-free, unlike a vast majority of Premier League clubs and are owned around 21 percent by its fans and not millionaire businessmen. But, despite trying hard at it, Swansea have now given up at their attempts to take the path less travelled.
And with changing times, Swansea have begun their transition to the now-monotonous style of spending buckets of money on players. And this attempt to replicate the methods of fellow Premier League clubs has already left the Swans in a bit of a mess, if not a big one. Especially when you consider they’re odds of just 4.50 to be relegated this season according to these betting websites.
The sale of Alberto Paloschi to Atalanta, Andre Ayew to West Ham, Bafetimbi Gomis on loan Marseille and Euro 2016 winner Eder to Lille shows that the club is now undergoing a change in terms of transfer dealings. The hurried manner of operating shows that the club has now fallen under the influence of commercialism, but is doing a bad bit of business due to it. Although, bad business is something most clubs in the Premier League are accustomed to doing, especially the bigger clubs such as Manchester United or Everton, but Swansea have done it in a manner that can be dubbed as rather careless.
While players like Ashley Williams, Andre Ayew, Paloschi, Gomis among others have been offloaded, no proper replacements have been roped in by Francesco Guidolin, who has been barred from having control over transfers at the club after the £8m capture of Paloschi in January. Four forwards have gone out, but only two have been brought in. One happens to the aged Fernando Llorente and the second is Borja Baston, who has been acquired from Atletico Madrid for a £15m fee.
Ashley Williams, who has been one of the Swans’ most impressive performers ever since they gained promotion in 2012, has been sent hurtling down to Goodison Park, who, much Swansea finished mid-table last season. And Ayew, who scored 12 times for Swansea last season, has been sold to League rivals West Ham. The above two sales suggest a degree of carelessness about transfers that Swansea could well have avoided, but selling your best players to same league rivals at a time when the ongoing Premier League season is set to be the most unpredictable one, doesn’t make sense. Above all, as the transfer window edges close to slamming shut, no replacements have been brought in for the two.
Although, Netherlands Under 21 defender Mike van der Hoorn has been signed from Jong Ajax, but doing as good as the inspirational, motivating and propelling force of Williams would be next to impossible, considering this would be the Dutchman’s first season in England. Jordi Amat, who signed a new deal at the club in 2015, has featured early on in the season, but he isn’t the force that Williams used to be. The Welsh skipper’s determination, that almost instilled a spirit of fighting hard for winning, would be sorely missing. A born leader, Williams is someone you can’t replace with a newcomer to the world’s most physical league or with a defender who hardly saw action in the new Toffees’ defender’s presence. Amat is more of a battler than Williams is, but the Spaniard lacks the leadership qualities that have almost shaped Swansea into what they are today.
It’s not just about not replacing the outgoings with proper replacements, but also about how Guidolin’s men are going to approach their game. Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston are tall, strong and bulky forwards, who compliment the side in being direct and act as a vital outlet for the side to find the back of the net. Apart from the duo, Swansea don’t have anyone who brings in a different dimension to their play, clearly suggestive of how the Swans will look to score this season. And tactical flexibility is a very important part of a manager’s armory, that too in the Premier League, where sides are clever enough to counter a majority of tactics.
Quite recently, Liverpool were at the receiving end of a shock at the hands of Burnley, when they were handed 80 percent of possession at a time when their counter-pressing or what Germans refer to as a gegenpressing was working out. The 2-0 scoreline came after Sean Dyche’s Clarets scored through Sam Vokes and Andre Gray in the first half, leaving Liverpool to stifle through to the end of the game. And rightly so, a forward who can take defenders on and beat them would add a whole new dimension to the approach they take, when their supposed Plan A is failing.
Jonjo Shelvey, who was offloaded to Newcaste United last January always seemed to act as a pivot for Gylfi Sigurdsson to do the attacking part, but following the Englishman’s departure, the Swans’ reliance on Federico Fernandez and Williams increased. Leroy Fer has been signed on a permanent deal and found the net against Burnley during the 1-0 win at Turf Moor, and although the former Twente man has come close to replacing Shelvey, but its a lesson that Swansea would have to learn from this transfer, having recently begun to follow the new way of signing and selling players.
Newly promoted Burnley will play with a lot of freedom, just because most are expecting them to go down and they’d have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this campaign. There’s hardly any burden of expectation on them to perform to a certain level. And they’ve got a more well-rounded side on paper than Swansea too, with forwards more mobile than Swansea’s and more utlility players in the squad than Guidolin’s men. And despite that, it won’t be a surprise to anyone if the Clarets go down again.
And Swansea themselves would be aware of the consequences of the bad amount of business they have done this summer, with only a little time left to pull of a miracle in it. And their approach to the game, which has to be flexible enough to counter that of the opposition, has to be kept in mind when making those deals. Otherwise, it will all come down to hard work, determination and luck. And again, leaders have to be brought into the side. Once they’ll lose two games on trot, the heads would go down, the morale would be rock bottom and there would be no one to motivate the side into doing better.
A bottom five finish lurks around the corner, with relegation a possibility too, unless some drastic changes are made.